FARC, Colombia kick off peace talks

FARC, Colombia kick off peace talks

BOGOTA - The Associated Press
FARC, Colombia kick off peace talks

Colombia’s government commisioner Camilo Gomez (L) and FARC spokesperson Raul Reyes exchange copies of an accord in this file photo. AFP photo

The commander of Colombia’s main militant group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), said its delegation at peace talks set to begin today in Oslo will include as a spokeswoman a young Dutch combatant who joined the insurgents nearly a decade ago.

Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, also acknowledged in an interview broadcast on Oct. 15 that the talks’ opening had been postponed by several days. Under an agreement signed in late August, they were to have begun in the first half of October.

“Before speculating we prefer to think that unanticipated delays have to do with the suspension of arrest warrants,” Timochenko said in the audio interview recorded at an undisclosed location and broadcast by several Colombian media outlets.

Government officials did not comment publicly on the reason for the delay but Enrique Santos, an adviser to government negotiators and brother of President Juan Manuel Santos, said the arrest warrant issue as well as the militants’ late inclusion of the Dutch woman contributed to the delay, as did bad weather that delayed travel for Ivan Marquez, a top militant negotiator. The talks mark the fourth attempt since the early 1980s to end a nearly half-century-old conflict.

Full political rights for disarmament

An agenda set during six months of secret talks in Havana calls for agrarian reform, full political rights for the disarmament once an agreement is signed. The FARC would also get out of the cocaine trade, its chief financing source. It claims to have already halted ransom kidnappings though authorities say it continues to extort.
The FARC leader said 34-year-old Tanja Nijmeijer would be among militant spokespeople in Oslo, where the talks are to be held at an undisclosed location before moving later in October to Cuba. Her participation could help boost the FARC’s profile in Europe, where it has more support than in the U.S. Nijmeijer gained fame when she complained of disillusionment in a diary found in 2007, four years after she joined the FARC.